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Study Reveals Long-Term Brain Injury Linked to COVID-19

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom — A recent study published on February 9th, 2024, sheds light on the persistent complaint of brain fog among patients with long-term COVID, attributing it to a viral-induced brain injury. Published findings suggest that cognitive and mental health issues stemming from COVID-19 may persist for years.

Conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, the study examined 351 patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19. One year post-infection, evidence of long-term brain injury was apparent through cognitive tests, self-reported symptoms, brain scans, and biomarkers.

Participants exhibited cognitive deficits equivalent to 20 years of brain aging, indicating substantial neuroanatomical changes. Lead author Benedict Michael noted that cognitive and memory problems were associated with these brain alterations.

Karla L. Thompson from the University of North Carolina emphasized the significance of biomarkers in validating patients’ experiences, especially as many clinicians remain skeptical of residual symptoms. While the exact cause of these brain injuries remains unclear, previous research suggests factors such as oxygen deprivation and inflammation. Steroids administered during hospitalization were found to have some neuroprotective effects.

James C. Jackson from Vanderbilt University emphasized the importance of treating long COVID-related brain fog as a brain injury. Therapies commonly used for brain injuries, including speech, cognitive, and occupational therapy, may benefit these patients.

Despite these insights, uncertainties persist regarding the impact on less severe cases of COVID-19 and the permanence of brain damage. Ziyad Al-Aly from the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System stressed the urgency of understanding the virus’s long-term effects and developing effective interventions.

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